Safety Failings Land School in Troubled Water

A Canterbury school has been fined £18,000 and ordered to pay costs of almost £10,000 after a seven-year-old boy needed CPR during a swimming lesson.

The boy was at a summer camp run by St Edmunds School when he got into trouble during an organised swim. Having lost a swimming float, he struggled for over three minutes before becoming motionless. The child then vomited under water as a lifeguard became aware of events and rescued him. He regained consciousness after CPR.

An HSE investigation found safety failings. A spokesman said the school did not effectively manage and monitor the lifeguards to make sure they were “constantly vigilant.”

Indeed, prosecuting lawyer, Matthew Butt, noted “There was clearly not a sufficient level of vigilance.” He added “Three lifeguards were on duty, two of them sixth formers and the third in his first year at university. None of them was asked by the school to provide proof of their qualifications.” Two did not hold current lifeguard qualifications.

Mr Butt said the problem was “No checks were made by the school.”

School Indiscipline

Criminal prosecutions are usually brought under the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974, which provides schools must “so far as is reasonably practicable” prevent or reduce student exposure to risk. A high percentage of cases involve incidents in water.

St Edmunds admitted not doing enough under the HSWA 1974 to protect pupils from health or safety risks. The judge said “The school failed to ensure the lifeguards held the relevant qualification – it could not be sure the guards had any experience or competency at all – this was a serious failing.”

The £18,000 fine was equal to the independent school’s profit from the last financial year. The school says it has since taken steps to improve health and safety procedures.

Contact Ellis Whittam to make sure your school’s procedures are effectively maintained and risks properly managed.

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